Jiande Li, Gang Song, Naifa Liu, Yongbin Chang and Xinkang Bao. Deep south-north genetic divergence in Godlewski’s bunting (Emberiza godlewskii) related to uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and habitat preferences. BMC Evolutionary Biology 19: 161 (2019).
Geological events and climatic changes played important roles in shaping population differentiation and distribution within species. In China, populations in many species have contracted and expanded responding to environmental changes with the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) and glacial cycles during Pleistocene. In this study, we analysed the population structure of Godlewski’s Bunting, Emberiza godlewskii, to determine the effects of major historical events, geographic barriers and past climatic changes on phylogenetic divergence and historical demographic dynamics of this species.
A phylogeny based on concatenated mitochondrial and nuclear DNA datasets show two (northern and southern) clades approximately diverged 3.26 million years ago (Ma). The West Qinling Mountains serve as a dividing line between the two lineages. Both lineages experienced a recent demographic expansion during interglacial periods (marine isotope stages (MISs) 2–6). Bayesian skyline plots and the results of ecological niche modelling suggested a more intensive expansion of the northern lineage during the late Pleistocene, whereas the southern lineage was comparatively mild in population growth.
Our results provide insights into the distribution patterns of avian taxa and the possible mechanisms for a south and north divergence model in China. The deep divergence may have been shaped by the uplift of the QTP. Habitat preferences might have facilitated the lineage divergence for E. godlewskii. Moreover, the West Qinling Mountains act as a dividing line between the two lineages, indicating a novel phylogeographic pattern of organisms in China. The difference in population expansion mode between two lineages resulted from different effects caused by the climate of the LGM and the subsequent habitat changes accompanying the arrival of a colder climate in northern and southern regions of China.